Coffee Ice Cubes

Beloved readers - I know it has been a minute since I have posted.  2014 has been a whirlwind and it's only likely to get busier as Summer is fast approaching!

On that note I have been finding myself needing a little more caffeine than usual.  Next time you make coffee, make an extra cup or two and pour it into an ice cube tray.

When the mood for iced coffee strikes, save yourself some coin by making your own.  As the cubes melt, your coffee won't get dilluted.  Or throw them in your high-powered blender along with your favorite creamer and sweetener (if desired) and Voilia!  You have your very own Frappacino and it won't cost 14 dollars at StarFu€k$.


Ground Tofu "Beef"

Convenience vegan prepackaged foods like ground soy meat are fine every once in a while but for a lot less money you can make your own faux ground beef  out of extra firm tofu and tailor the seasoning levels to suit your taste.  Today I went asian with my seasonings because I wanted to use the faux meat for stir fry.  Give it a try.  It is easy to make and fun to eat.  Your kids might even like it - mine sure do!

Ground Tofu "Beef"
2 one-pound packages extra firm tofu
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon seasoning salt (like Lawrys)
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 inch knob fresh ginger (mince finely)
1 clove fresh garlic (mince finely)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Strain and press tofu to drain as much liquid as possible.  Cut into cubes and mix with all ingredients.  Place mixture in a casserole dish and bake for 1 1/2 hours stirring every 1/2 hour to ensure even browning. Remove from oven and use immediately or allow to cool before storing in refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Use in stirfry, soup, stews, shepard's pie, sandwiches, burritos and more!


Best Beer Batter

2 Cups Flour

1 Tablespoon Baking Powder

1 1/2 Stellas (or beers of choice)

2 teaspoons Sea Salt

Your Spices of choice!

i.e. Old Bay, Chili Powder, Garlic Powder, Black Pepper, White Pepper, Nutmeg, Lawrys, Mrs. Dash's or whatever you have on hand.

Mix dry ingredients together, then add beer.  Drink the rest of the beer, then drink another beer,  letting batter set for 15 minutes.  Coat any and all veggies, tofu or whatever you desire.

Fry in 375 Degree Oil until golden.  Sprinkle with Sea Salt and serve immediately with dipping sauces of choice.


Vegan Hawaiian Rolls

2 Packets Active Dry Yeast or 4 1/2 teaspoons
1/3 Cup Sugar
2 teaspoons Sea Salt
1 teaspoon White Pepper
4 Cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour
3 Tablespoons Vegan Butter
1 1/4 Cups Coconut Water
Olive Oil Baking Spray
Muffin Tin

Add all ingredients to bread machine and set dough cycle.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  When dough cycle is finished form loose balls of dough and place in muffin tin sprayed generously with Olive Oil baking spray.  Cover loosely with a lint free towel and allow to rise 45 minutes or intil doubled in size.  Bake for 15 minutes and allow to cool for 5 minutes in pan.  Remove from tin and serve immediately.


Fully Loaded Vegetable Tamale Pot Pie

Admittedly this recipe is a little time consuming but totally worth every minute.  It combines two of my favorite things, tamales and pot pies.  You can go traditional pot pie by topping it with rich, buttery gravy or take it mexican by pairing it with your favorite sides and sauces.  Either way I think you will agree, this filling comfort food dish is a true genius mash up.  Make some!

Fully Loaded Vegetable Tamale Pot Pie

Tamale "Crust"
4 Cups Masa Harina (Corn Flour)
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 Stick Vegan Butter (1/2 Cup)
1/8 Cup (any) Oil
3 1/2 Cups Vegetable Broth
2 teaspoons Sea Salt
1 teaspoon finely ground Black Pepper
Parchment Paper
Alluminum Foil

2 Russet Potatoes
2 Carrots
2 Ribs Celery
1/2 Red Onion
1/2 Cup Green Peas (frozen or canned is fine)
8 Button Mushrooms
1 Tablespoon Sea Salt
Additional Salt and Pepper (to taste)
Dash of any oil for sauteeing mushrooms)

Reserved liquid from boiled vegetables
1 to 2 Cups Vegetable Broth (depending how much reserved liquid you have)
4 Tablespoons Vegan Butter
4 Tablespoons Flour
Sea Salt and Pepper (to taste)

Begin by finely chopping potatoes, onions, celery, and carrots.  Put all in a pot of water with 1 Tablespoon Sea Salt and bring to a boil.  Cook just until potatoes are tender and strain (reserving liquid for later use in gravy).  Set vegetable mixture aside.  Slice mushrooms into thin slices.  In another saute pan, heat a little oil and saute mushrooms with a little salt until golden brown.  Set aside.

Tamale "Crust":
Time to make the Tamale "Crust".  In a large bowl combine Masa Harina, Salt, Pepper and Baking Powder.  Melt butter and add to Masa mixture.  Add oil and stir to combine.  Lastly add vegetable broth 1 cup at a time, stirring gently to incorporate until combined.  Set aside.

Time to assemble your pot pie!  Preheat oven to 350 Degrees Farenheit.  In a very large casserole dish place a peice of parchment paper larger than the dish so it fills dish and comes up the sides.  

Spoon half the Masa mixture into dish on top of parchment.  Spread mixture so you have one even layer about 3/4 inch thick.  Top with mushrooms, peas and vegetable mixture.  Press down slightly.  

Put remaining Masa mixture on top and press down into one even layer.  It helps if you wet your hands and do this.  

Don't worry if a few vegetables are peaking through.  Just do your best.  You are basically creating one giant tamale and it doesn't have to be perfect!  It is fine to "smoosh" the vegetables in between the layers.  Finally bring up the sides of parchment that were hanging over and fold a top casserole like a present.  

Use another peice of parchment to ensure top is covered and touching parchment on all sides.  Secure top with tin foil.  This creates a steam pocket for your masterpiece to cook.

Okay time to cook!  Put casserole dish on a large sheet tray and place in oven.  Pour water on sheet tray so it helps your tamale stay moist while steaming.  Be sure to check every 30 minutes while cooking and replenish water bath as needed.  Bake for at least 90 minutes.  Turn off oven and leave it in there for another 15 minutes.  You can check doneness (careful, it's steamy in there) by checking if the Masa has "set" and is no longer "wet".  Do NOT overcook because it will come out dry.  

Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.  Keep in mind the Masa will continue to cook/set even after it has been removed from oven.  

In a large sauce pan melt vegan butter over medium heat and add flour.   Whisk to combine and cook until golden.  Add broth and reserved liquid 1 cup at a time.  Add salt and pepper.  Bring to a gentle boil while whisking and then reduce to a simmer.  Taste test for seasoning levels.  Keep covered until ready to serve.  

Cooking times of tamale pot pie may vary based on individual ovens.

Serving suggestion:  serve with gravy and fresh chopped parsley.  If you want to go more traditional Mexican serve this pie alongside some pinto beans and your favorite salsa or hot sauce.  For example, check out my Arbol Fire Sauce recipe for inspiration.  Enjoy!!

Make it Mexican by topping it with this yumminess....

Arbol Fire Sauce
1 can tomato paste
1 red hot chili (dried or fresh with stem removed)
2 cups water
2 cloves fresh garlic
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all in your high speed blender and then warm in a sauce pan for serving. Be sure to cover your blender with a towel and keep your hand on the top to avoid a tomato explosion in your kitchen. Trust me on this one. Serve immediately with your tamale cake and store any unused portion in refrigerator in a tightly sealed glass vessel for up to one week. ENJOY.


Taco Salad Salsa

If you have checked out my blog you know that I love making fresh salsa and that I rarely suggest canned ingredients.  However, this one stores well for days on end and goes great topped on mixed greens with avocado, a dollop of vegenaise and crushed tortilla chips for a great taco salad.  

It is a perfect way to have salad in a snap because you have already done the chopping ahead of time.  Of course if you just despise the idea of using canned beans, feel free to make your own and use them in this recipe.

Taco Salad Salsa
1 16 ounce Can Pinto Beans
1 16 ounce Can Diced Tomatoes
1/2 Yellow Onion
1 Cup Fresh Cilantro
2 Cloves Fresh Garlic
2 Jalapeno Peppers
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon Dried Oregano
1/2 teaspoon Cumin
1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Sugar (optional)
Juice and zest of 1 Lime

Drain, rinse and strain pinto beans and add to a large glass bowl along with the whole can of diced tomatoes (juice and all).  Dice onion, peppers and garlic and toss those in.  (Your choice if you leave ribs and seeds in the jalapeno peppers, just remember that will add heat).  Thoroughly clean and chop cilantro and add it in along with lime, salt, sugar and other seasonings.  Stir gently but thoroughly and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow to sit on counter for at least 30 minutes.  Store in fridge until ready to use.


Double Crust Brandy Pot Pie

Top and bottom crust with a rich filling of red potatoes, carrots, onion and peas all spiked with a healthy dose of brandy.  This comfort food will leave you feeling full and warm like you've just been hugged.  

Double Crust Brandy Pot Pie

2 1/2 Cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 Stick Earth Balance
4-6 Tablespoons Cold Water
1 Tablespoon Brandy
1 teaspoon Sea Salt

4 Red Potatoes
1 Small Yellow Onion
1 Carrot
1/8 Cup Parsley
1/3 Cup Frozen Green Peas
6 Cups Vegetable Broth
1/2 Cup Non Dairy Milk
3 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
2 Tablespoons Brandy
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
Dash of any oil and pat of vegan butter
Dash of White Pepper
Dash of Nutmeg

Begin by making pie crust.  You can use your food processor or make it the old fashioned way.  Combine flour, salt and cold vegan butter(cut into cubes).  Slowly add brandy and water and combine (pulse) just until it comes together.  Do not overmix or your crust will come out tough.  Wrap dough in saran wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Now on to the filling.  Get all of your root vegetables and herbs ready for action.  Peel potatoes and chop into cubes, set aside.  Finely dice onion and chop carrots into bite sized chunks, set aside.  Measure out peas and finely chop parsley, set aside.  

In a large pan heat a little vegan butter and oil over medium heat (about 3 Tablespoons combined).  Add chopped potatoes, onions and carrots and stir to coat.  Sprinkle with salt, white pepper, nutmeg and flour.  Stir to coat and then add broth slowly.  Bring to a gentle boil and then add non dairy milk and brandy.  

Reduce heat to simmer and cook for about 10-15 minutes, allow to reduce (simmer down) slightly.  Taste test for seasoning level.  Gravy should coat back of spoon and be quite flavorful.  Turn off heat, add peas and parsley.  Stir, taste and set aside to cool slightly while you tackle your crust.

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees Farenheit. Take crust out of refrigerator, split and roll out as desired.  You can split it and make a top and bottom crust, as shown, or you can make one large top crust and put the pie together in a large casserole dish.  Perfection is not required here!

Assemble pie as desired and bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown.  Cooking times may vary slightly based on thickness of crust and size of pan.  Serve immediately with additional finely chopped parsley.


Double Citrus Black Beans

I love making beans from scratch.  The result is far superior to anything that comes out of a tin can.  You can also tailor the spice level to suit your individual preference.  These Double Citrus Black Beans are an Ode to my late Mother who, like me, adored all things Mexican!  Enjoy!!

Double Citrus Black Beans
1 Pound Dried Black Beans
10 Cups Water
1 Yellow Onion
6 Cloves Garlic
2 Small Oranges (Satsumas work well)
2 Limes
2 Bay Leaves
1 teaspoon dried Oregano
1 Tablespoon Sea Salt (add when beans finish cooking)

Begin by soaking beans in a large pot of cold water for 6 hours or overnight.  Strain and rinse and add beans to large pot along with 10 Cups of cold water.  Chop onion in half, remove peel and add to pot along with whole peeled garlic, bay leaves and oregano.  Zest 1 lime and add lime zest to pot.  Slice zested lime and 1 orange in half and add all of their juice to pot.  You can even just throw them in there if you like (I did).  

Bring mixture to a gentle boil and stir.  Reduce to lowest simmer, keep lid cocked to the side and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until all beans are tender.  Now turn off heat and add salt.  Allow to sit covered for 10 minutes and then strain out most of the excess liquid leaving a little to keep beans moist.  This is all in personal preference to how "soupy" you like your beans.  You might even want to retain the liquid for making soup later on.

Using tongs or a slotted spoon remove onions, garlic, lime, orange and bay leaves as best you can and discard.  They have already done their job.  Now lastly add juice of remaining lime and orange and stir to combine.  Serve immediately or allow to cool to room temperature and store in tightly sealed glass vessel for up to one week in refrigerator.


Fill Up Your Produce Drawers

The number one tip I can offer anyone who is trying to incorporate more plant-based foods into their lives is as simple as this:  Fill up your produce drawer!

I know this sounds really easy, but if you are like a lot of folks out there, your produce often goes bad before you use it all.  One way to help eliminate this dillemna is to shop smart, wash and sort produce as soon as you get home, so it is ready at a moments notice.

Here are some great staples to load up on and help you eat more vegetables and fruits.  Find a market you trust where they sell mostly produce.  Buy the following (or pick and choose what you like using this as a suggested guide):

Green or Red Leaf Lettuce
Red and Yellow Onions

Believe it or not, I got all of this (and then some) for 40 dollars.  You can too and your family and pocketbook will be happier for it.  You might surprise yourself how many more veggies and fruits you will eat.

Okay so you got all this great stuff, now what?!  Thoroughly wash and dry the following and store individually in ziploc bags in your produce drawer:
(For greens and herbs, try putting a folded paper towel in the ziploc for absorbing excess moisture).

Green or Red Leaf Lettuce (Ziploc with paper towel)
Kale (Ziploc with paper towel)
Spinach (Ziploc with paper towel)
Celery (Bag)
Leeks (Bag)
Parsley (Ziploc with paper towel)
Cilantro (Ziploc with paper towel)
Basil (Ziploc with paper towel)
Broccoli (Ziploc)
Carrots (Bag)
Cucumbers (Bag)
Jalapenoes (Bag)

For the following, here is how I like to store these:

Mushrooms (Produce drawer as is)
Avocados (fruit bowl on counter)
Tomatoes (fruit bowl on counter)
Red and Yellow Onions (hanging basket by stove)
Garlic (hanging basket by stove)
Ginger (Produce drawer as is)
Apples (fruit bowl on counter)
Oranges (fruit bowl on counter)
Limes (fruit bowl on counter)
Lemons (fruit bowl on counter)

The number of things you can make with this bounty is limitless.  Just having things like fresh herbs, lettuce, spinach and kale might make your ordinary salad a lot more enticing.  You also have everything you need to make a lovely fresh salsa, rocking guacamole, a cucumber salad, fresh pesto, soup galore and a kick-ass stirfry!  Now that it is all sorted and washed, you really have no excuse.

And sure, you can buy bags of that prewashed stuff, but do you ever notice how fast those go bad!?  Or how expensive they are?!  Invest a little time picking and washing your own, you won't regret it.  Happy eating!!

Leek Lentil Soup

Sometimes simple is best.  This rings true for this few ingredient Leek Lentil Soup.  So warm up your belly and soul on a chilly Winter evening with this soothing and savory simple soup.  You won't miss the chicken!  I swear!

Leek Lentil Soup
3 Leeks
2 Ribs Celery
1 Carrot
1 Cup Red Lentils
6 Cups Water
2 Tablespoons Canola Oil
1 Tablespoon Sea Salt
1 Bay Leaf

Begin by chopping and thoroughly washing leeks.  I suggest soaking them in a couple changes of cold water in a large bowl.  Heat up oil in large pot over medium heat and add chopped leeks.  Now add salt, stir and prepare other veggies.  Chop celery and carrot into bite size peices.  Once leeks have cooked for about 5-7 minutes, add celery, carrot and bay leaf.  Cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Rinse lentils and add to pot.  Stir veggies and add water, two cups at a time.  Bring to a gentle boil and reduce to lowest simmer.  Cover pot with lid and cook for 12-15 minutes or until lentils are tender.  Taste test for seasoning level.  Serve immediately and garnish with fresh cracked black pepper, if desired.


Easy Bread Machine Pizza Crust

Pizza!  One of those all time favorite comfort foods.  This is a simple recipe that can be enhanced with any of your favorite toppings.  I suggest par-baking the crust so you ensure you can obtain a crispy exterior texture with a chewy interior.  This recipe will make two medium pizzas or one extra large pizza.

Easy Bread Machine Pizza Crust
3 1/2 Cups Bread Flour
1 Cup Luke Warm Water
2 1/4 teaspoons Active Dry Yeast (or 1 packet)
2 teaspoons Sea Salt
1 Tablespoon Sugar (optional)
2 Tablespoons Olive or Canola Oil

Add water, yeast and sugar to bread machine.  Allow to sit about 5 minutes.  Next add Flour, Salt and Oil.  Set machine to "Pizza Dough" or "Dough" setting.  Run machine and voila!  You have beautiful dough!  Use immediately or wrap in saran wrap securely and use within 2 days.

Cooking suggestion:  Preheat oven to 425 Degrees F.  Press, pull and stretch pizza dough onto a large peice of parchment paper on a large sheet tray.  Poke lots of holes in dough using a fork.  Kids love to help with this step!  Par Bake on center rack for 10-15 minutes.  Remove from oven, add thin layer of desired toppings and return to oven (top rack).  Bake for another 5-7 minutes.  For extra crispy crust, cook crust directly on oven rack during this last 5 minutes of cooking time.

Serving suggestion:  Drizzle with good olive oil, fresh herbs, garlic and sea salt.  Makes a great flatbread or pizza base.

Get my Best Pizza Sauce recipe here too:



Whole Roasted Cauliflower

I stumbled across this recipe and, although the original recipe is not vegan, converting it is not difficult.  I have never been a huge Cauliflower fan so I have been on a quest to fall in love with it by experimenting with new cooking techniques.  This one hit the mark!  Check it out at:  http://food52.com/recipes/24387-alon-shaya-s-whole-roasted-cauliflower-and-whipped-goat-cheese